Andreas Mikkelsen feels well prepared for Rally Sweden, second round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). “Rallye Monte-Carlo was the first event together with my new co-driver Torstein Eriksen – it worked perfectly straight away! I also know that our ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, prepared excellently as always by Team Toksport WRT, works well on the fast snow tracks in Sweden. As the special stages around Umeå are new to the championship, the conditions will be the same for everyone. For sure it will be an exciting battle,” the reigning WRC2 champion from Norway looks ahead.
Mikkelsen’s teammates at ŠKODA Motorsport-backed team Toksport WRT, Nikolay Gryazin and co-driver Konstantin Aleksandrov from Russia, finished the season opener in Monte-Carlo third overall in WRC2 and second in WRC Junior category. Although having competed at the WRC’s only proper snow rally just once in the past, Gryazin is among the favourites for the category victory. “I’m looking forward to my debut with the ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo in Sweden. I really hope, that with the expected lower temperatures, we will once again have snow walls along the tracks. They are very good to lean the rally car on to achieve higher cornering speeds,” Gryazin reveals some insights into driving techniques at winter rallies.
Also driving a Toksport WRT entered ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, Marco Bulacia/Marcelo Der Ohannesian (BOL/ARG) are completely new to Rally Sweden. “At Rallye Monte-Carlo, we experienced some bad luck and could not score any points. I definitely want to score valuable points for the WRC2 overall and Junior classification, even when most of the competitors have more experience on snow and ice,” Bulacia summarizes his goal for the second WRC round.
In contrast to the young South Americans, reigning Finnish Rally Champions Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) have plenty of experience on fast and snow covered forest roads. In preparation for their first WRC2 start of the season, they won the Arctic Lapland Rally in similar winterly conditions. The talented mixed crew from Finland will be one to beat on the way to victory in WRC2 category at Rally Sweden.
Technically, Toksport WRT runs two independent teams. Mikkelsen and Bulacia are entered under Toksport WRT, Gryazin and Lindholm are officially listed under Toksport WRT 2. Both teams fight for championship points on their own – after all also against each other.
The rally version of the ŠKODA FABIA is very popular in Scandinavia, as the entry list for Rally Sweden shows: In the 30 entries strong field of Rally2 vehicles – including 24 WRC2 competitors –, a total of eleven crews compete with the successful rally car from Mladá Boleslav. Amongst them are also Mauro Miele/Luca Beltrame from Italy, who lead the WRC2 Masters classification. Bruno Bulacia (BOL), younger brother of Toksport WRT driver Marco Bulacia, celebrates his WRC2 debut next to experienced Spanish co-driver Marc Martí at the wheel of a ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo.
In order to guarantee the best winterly conditions, which often have been missed in recent years, Rally Sweden has moved its base from Karlstad in the southernly province of Värmland, where the event was based since the WRC’s inaugural season 1973. New rally town is Umeå some 800 kilometres further north at the shores of the Baltic Sea.
The second round of the 2022 WRC season kicks off on Thursday evening (24 February) with a start ceremony in the city centre of Umeå. On Friday (25 February), the teams will tackle seven special stages. On Saturday (26 February), another eight special stages will follow before the final four special stages close the event on Sunday (27 February).
Did you know that…
…a forerunner to Rally Sweden was held for the first time in 1950, but in mid-summer? Originally, it carried the name “Rally to the Midnight Sun” and has only been moved to its now traditional winter date in 1965.
…every crew must have a shovel on board to dig its car out of the snow in case of an off?
…the cars are equipped with tyres used in the FIA World Rally Championship only at Rally Sweden. The Pirelli tyres of the ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo in category WRC2 are armed with 384 Tungsten made studs each. The figure is due to the regulations which state a maximum of 20 studs per square decimetre of the tyre’s surface. Meanwhile, the length of the studs may not exceed 20mm for a weight of 4 grams. Their shape must be cylindrical and they must be inserted from the outside.
…during Rally Sweden in WRC’s inaugural season 1973, only winter tyres without studs were allowed? Swedish local hero and occasional ŠKODA factory driver Stig Blomqvist celebrated victory despite a loss of ten minutes early on due to a problem with the fuel pump.
… Pavel Sibera/Petr Gross won class A5 in 1993 with a ŠKODA FAVORIT 136L?
Top ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo entries (with starting numbers):
20 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (NOR/NOR), Toksport WRT
21 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (RAF/RAF), Toksport WRT 2
22 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (FIN/FIN), Toksport WRT 2
25 Marco Bulacia/Marcelo Der Ohannesian (BOL/ARG), Toksport WRT
Top-3 overall WRC2/Drivers (before Rally Sweden)
|Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo
|Erik Cais (CZE), Ford Fiesta Rally2
|Nikolay Gryazin (RAF), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo
The FIA World Rally Championship 2022
|20 – 23 January
|24 – 27 February
|21 – 24 April
|19 – 22 May
|Rally Italy Sardinia
|2 – 5 June
|Safari Rally Kenya
|23 – 26 June
|14 – 17 July
|4 – 7 August
|Ypres Rally (Belgium)
|18 – 21 August
|Acropolis Rally Greece
|8 – 11 September
|Rally New Zealand
|29 September – 2 October
|RallyRACC Rally de España
|20 – 23 October
|10 – 13 November